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Archive for January 16th, 2009

“America’s Sheriff” Acquitted in Calif. On All But One Fed Charge

America’s Sheriff — make that ex-sheriff —  must really believe in America after this verdict. He was acquitted on everything but one count of witness tampering.

By RACHANEE SRISAVASDI, LARRY WELBORN, ANDREW GALVIN and DOUG IRVING
The Orange County Register
SANTA ANA – An Orange County jury today acquitted ex-Sheriff Mike Carona of conspiracy, rejecting the government’s claim that he participated in a six-year scheme to illegally win office and use his position to enrich himself and his inner circle.
Carona sobbed and laid his head on a table as a court clerk read the verdict: not guilty of conspiracy, not guilty of mail fraud, not guilty of one count of witness tampering. Guilty on a second count of witness tampering.
“What you are watching is an absolute miracle,” Carona said as he hugged friends and family members. “If you don’t believe in God, now you should.”
For Full Story

FBI Agents Raid 2 Detroit Businesses in City Hall Probe

The ex-mayor is in jail on state charges. The FBI is investigating him and city hall corruption. And Detroit is in the economic dumps. Not a pretty picture.

BY JOE SWICKARD, M.L. ELRICK and JIM SCHAEFER
Detroit Free Press
DETROIT — Federal agents converged on double fronts Thursday in their wide-ranging investigation into City Hall corruption, raiding two businesses linked to a city contractor who is a longtime friend of disgraced former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.
The searches of offices linked to Bobby Ferguson followed last weekend’s news that a grand jury is seeking the testimony of a veteran City Council aide as part of the probe into allegations that officials have taken bribes for city contracts.
A City Hall official with knowledge of the federal investigation said Thursday’s raids were tied into the probe of an alleged pay-to-play scheme in city government for contracts, including those at Cobo Center, as well as a controversial sludge-hauling deal awarded to Synagro Technologies of Houston. The official requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigation.
By afternoon Thursday, agents lugged about a dozen boxes — one marked “2008 bank statements” — from Ferguson Enterprises Inc. on Wyoming on the city’s west side.
For Full Story

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Fed Judge Allows Govt To Pursue Criminal Contempt Charges Against Ex-Fla Professor For Refusing to Testify in Grand Jury About Muslim Groups (AP)

Barry Bonds’ Lawyers Say Steroid Tests Unreliable

The court battle is nearing and this should get a lot more interesting . It could end up being more exciting than a Giants game.

By Lance Williams
San Francisco Chronicle
SAN FRANCISCO — Prosecutors cannot conclusively link Barry Bonds to positive steroid tests seized in a raid on the BALCO laboratory, lawyers for the former Giants slugger say.
In documents filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, Bonds’ defense team asked a judge to sharply restrict the evidence the government may use in prosecuting Bonds for allegedly lying to a grand jury in 2003 about his use of banned drugs.
They asked Judge Susan Illston to bar the use of the drug tests, which prosecutors say prove that Bonds used steroids and then lied when he told the grand jury he had never used banned substances.
But the defense lawyers contend there is insufficient evidence that the tests, seized by federal agents in their September 2003 raid on the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative in Burlingame, were actually performed on samples submitted by Bonds.
For Full Story
Read Barry Bond Motion

Appeals Court Backs Controversial Warrantless Wiretaps

Here’s a ruling bound to stir more controversy. Will things change in the Obama administration?

By Del Quentin Wilber and R. Jeffrey Smith
Washington Post Staff Writers
WASHINGTON — A special federal appeals court yesterday released a rare declassified opinion that backed the government’s authority to intercept international phone conversations and e-mails from U.S. soil without a judicial warrant, even those involving Americans, if a significant purpose is to collect foreign intelligence.
The ruling, which was issued in August but not made public until now, responded to an unnamed telecommunications firm’s complaint that the Bush administration in 2007 improperly demanded information on its clients, violating constitutional protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. The company complied with the demand while the case was pending.
In its opinion, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review ruled that national security interests outweighed the privacy rights of those targeted, affirming what amounts to a constitutional exception for matters involving government interests “of the highest order of magnitude.”
For Full Story

Oooops! Another Government Screw Up in Stevens Case: Prosecution Says it Misspoke and Asks Judge Not to Force Atty. Gen. To Sign Declaration Under Oath

The government now says it misspoke when it told the judge on Wednesday that an FBI agent in the Stevens case had been denied whistleblower status. The misstep on Wednesday set off the judge who ordered  Atty. Gen. Michael Mukasey to sign a declaration of oath on the matter. Now the prosecution says it was all a misunderstanding. Ooops.

By Lisa Demer and Erika Bolstad
Anchorage Daily News

On Wednesday, federal prosecutors revealed that Anchorage FBI agent Chad Joy was the person alleging misconduct in the Ted Stevens corruption investigation and also said he had been “denied whistleblower status.”
Today, they told the judge they were wrong on the second point.
A document filed late in the day today describes another misstep for the prosecution in the case of former U.S. Sen. Stevens, convicted last year of seven felonies for failing to reveal gifts on federal financial disclosure forms.
At Wednesday’s hearing, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan was angered when prosecutors told him that Joy didn’t qualify for whistleblower status. Had he known that earlier, the judge said, he would have handled the complaint differently from the start, he said. In December, when the complaint came to light, he ordered that a redacted copy with almost no names be released.
“I want to know what your office knew and when,” Sullivan demanded at the hearing. He ordered that Attorney General Michael Mukasey sign a declaration under oath about who knew what when about the whistleblower status. But on Thursday, prosecutors admitted they got that part wrong and are asking that the judge back off his order for Mukasey to get involved.
For Full Story
Read Government Motion
UPDATE: Friday 6:40 P.M. Annoyed Judge Still Wants Answers From  Mukasey (Anchorage Daily News)

U.S. Atty. Fitzgerald Refutes Defense Claim That He Should Be Taken off Gov. Blagojevich Case

U.S. Atty. Fitzgerald

U.S. Atty. Fitzgerald

One thing U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald is known for: not walking away from a battle. Here’s the latest salvo in the Gov. Blagojevich case.

By MIKE ROBINSON
Associated Press Writer
CHICAGO — Federal prosecutors fired back Thursday at defense claims that U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald’s comments at a news conference were so strongly worded that he should be taken off the fraud case against Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
Fitzgerald said in announcing charges against Blagojevich and former chief of staff John Harris on Dec. 9 the two men had been on “a political corruption crime spree” and their actions would make “Lincoln roll over in his grave.”
Defense attorneys have asked Chief Judge James F. Holderman of the U.S. District Court to take Fitzgerald off the case, saying the comments were so far over the line that they were guaranteed to generate prejudicial publicity before the trial.
Fitzgerald’s office said in court papers filed Thursday his comments were not improper and “served as a means of energizing and mobilizing the community to take action to thwart or deter public corruption.”

Read Government Motion

Feds Say White Supremacist Hate Talk Out There About Obama Inauguration

With an event of this magnitude, you can never underestimate potential problems. And one of those potential problems is the white supremacists, who have been spewing hate ever since Obama launched his presidential campaign. Inauguration or not, that isn’t expected to change anytime soon.

By Richard Sisk and James Gordon Meek
New York Daily News
Washington — Federal agents are on “a higher state of alert” because of hate talk by white supremacists about Barack Obama’s inauguration, officials told the Daily News on Tuesday.
“That chatter is out there, no doubt about it,” one senior FBI agent in Washington said this afternoon, adding that no credible plots against the 56th Presidential Inauguration have been detected.
The Bureau has ordered agents in all 56 field offices to “shake the trees” in advance of the Jan. 20 swearing-in of the 44th President, who will become the first African-American to occupy the Oval Office.
To Read More

Pittsburgh FBI Agent Tells of His Stint in Afghanistan to Crack Down on Contractor Fraud

Jeff Killeen is just one of the many FBI agents who have played an increasing roll in the world for the U.S. in the post-9/11 era. He went there to help crack down on fraud committed by U.S. and Afghani contractors.

By Torsten Ove
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
PITTSBURGH — Home from what he calls the “wilds” of Afghanistan, Pittsburgh FBI Chief Division Counsel Jeff Killeen climbed into a colleague’s car at the airport for the ride to the South Side office.
As Agent Bill Crowley drove, he noticed something different about his friend.
In addition to being 10 pounds lighter, Agent Killeen was a bit twitchy, glancing over his right shoulder and looking out the window as if he expected to see something bad.
Turns out he was.
Out of reflex, he was checking for suicide car bombers — the main threat to any American on the chaotic roads of Kabul.
“Crowley said that I was ‘on edge,’ ” said Agent Killeen, 56. “You’re constantly looking for threats over there.”
For Full Story